What begins as a religious feast day for the patron saint of Ireland is now an international celebration of Irish culture.
St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and every year on March 17, the world celebrates his Irish legacy with parades, dancing, special foods and a whole lot of green.
He’s not even Irish! Patrick the man is probably born in Scotland or England in the late 4th century AD. Because “Patricius” is the Romanticized version of his real name, Maewyn Succat, he becomes known as Patrick.
The Legend of St. Patrick
As a young boy, he is sold into slavery by pirates and imprisoned in Ireland. Legend has it that through the grace of God, Patrick escapes to Britain and then France, where he joins a monastery, studying under the bishop of Auxerre, St. Germain. Yet Ireland keeps calling to him, and eventually he returns, with the Pope’s blessing.
For 20 years, he travels throughout Ireland, establishing monasteries, setting up schools and church parishes, which aid him in converting the countrymen. He develops a native clergy, fosters the growth of monasticism, establishes dioceses and holds church councils. By the end of the 7th century Patrick becomes a legendary figure.
Luck of the Irish
Several iconic symbols are associated with St. Patrick’s Day:
● March 17 – Patrick died on March 17, AD 461, commemorated as St. Patrick’s Day ever since.
● Tri-leafed Shamrock – They say St. Patrick used one to explain the Christian concept of the Trinity, i.e., the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; it is also an ancient symbol for the triple goddess Brigit.
● The Leprechaun – A Celtic fairy who lives alone and loves to make shoes; the trickster of the holiday.
● Pot of Gold – A leprechaun’s treasure.
● Blarney Stone – A stone set in the wall of the castle tower in the Irish village of Blarney. Kissing the stone is supposed to give the gift of “persuasive eloquence,” aka, blarney.
● The Color Green – It’s the color of Ireland, “of mysterious deeds, of an awakening earth, of the mist that lies in the hollows foretelling the coming of spring.”
Colcannon is an Irish potato dish made with green cabbage or chopped kale. The word colcannon is from the Gaelic “cal ceannann,” which literally means “white-headed cabbage.” Cooks of old would mix little charms right in with the colcannon, which predict the future for the eater. A button means you’ll remain a bachelor for the coming year; a thimble means you’ll remain a spinster; a ring means you’ll get married and a coin means you’ll come into wealth.
4 lbs (1.8kg) potatoes, or about 7-8 large russet potatoes
1 head of green cabbage or kale
1 cup ( 7 fl oz, 240 ml) milk (or cream)
1 stick (4oz, 120g) butter, divided into three parts
4-5 scallions (green onions), chopped
Salt and pepper
Fresh Parsley or chives
Peel and put potatoes in a pot to boil. While the potatoes are cooking, remove the core from the cabbage, slice the leaves thinly, and put into a large saucepan. Cover with boiling water from the kettle and keep at a slow rolling boil until the cabbage is just wilted and has turned a darker green, about 3-5 minutes.
When the cabbage is cooked, drain it well, squeeze to get any excess moisture out, then return to the saucepan. Add one third of the butter and cover, leaving off the burner in a warm place. When the potatoes are soft, drain the water and return the potatoes to the saucepan. With the drained potatoes in, set the burner to low, leaving the lid off so that any excess moisture can evaporate. When they are perfectly dry, add the milk to the saucepan, along with a third of the butter and the chopped scallions. Allow the milk to warm but not boil – it is about right when the butter has fully melted and the pot is starting to steam.
With a potato masher or a fork, mash the potatoes thoroughly into the butter/milk mixture. Mix the cabbage thoroughly through the mashed potato.
Before serving, season with a little salt and sprinkle with fresh parsley or chives.
Spice up the preparation of Irish feasts for St. Patrick’s Day with a cutting board beautifully crafted from eco-friendly bamboo. Great for food prep or to hang as a decoration in the kitchen – a truly unique gift or kitchen accessory. The wood is deep laser engraved for a permanent personalization, with initials or monogram, message, family crest, clip art or other artwork – a custom gift that will be remembered all year long.